November 14, 2006 -- “Stranger Than Fiction” is an inventive comedy combined with a very moving romance. It is way smarter than the usual comedy and the romance is more powerful than what you would expect from a romantic comedy. This film tackles the old question of determinism in a new way. What if you discovered that you were a character in a book and you could hear the writer's voice in your head as he wrote the book, and everything she said about you was true? That is the fate that Harold Crick (played by Will Farrell of “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby”) faces in this film.
Harold begins to hear the voice in his head one day and discovers that everything the voice says about him is true, and everything the voice says will happen does happen. At first, Harold thinks he is going crazy, but he really gets concerned when the voice in his head says he is going to die soon. He seeks out a psychiatrist, who tells him he ought to talk to someone who is an expert on literature. This brings Harold to a professor of literature, Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman of “Meet the Fockers”). Hilbert, an ivory tower type with little connection to everyday life, agrees to help Harold narrow down the field of possible authors. He asks a very strange series of questions which seem to have no point. For the longest time, the two are unable to discover if Harold's life is a comedy or tragedy.
During the course of this angst-ridden exploration, Harold falls in love, probably for the first time in his life. The object of his affection is a baker, Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal of “Secretary”), who Harold is auditing for the IRS. The two develop a friendship slowly as Harold muddles along. Eventually, Hilbert gives up on trying to find the author of Harold's life and tells Harold to live it up while he still can. Harold does, and for the first time in his life, he actually has a life worth saving. Eventually, he discovers the identity of the author he has been hearing, Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson of “Nanny McPhee”). This leads to more complications in the story. Kay Eiffel has a bad case of writer's block, and that is the only thing that has spared Harold's life to this point in the story. Eiffel's assistant is Penny Escher (Queen Latifah of “Last Holiday”).
Everyone who reads the unfinished manuscript of Harold's life, including Hilbert and Harold himself agree that it would ruin the book if Harold's character in the book is allowed to live. Eiffel doesn't want to change the ending either, but she doesn't want to kill Harold. She's coming up against the deadline for the book to be delivered. What will she do? As if all this wasn't odd enough, Harold's watch has a mind of its own and becomes a key character in the plot. It is a fascinating story. Although it is offbeat fantasy, the characters are so strong and the story so clever it is hard to resist the film's charms. It is a bit slow-moving at times, but well worth the viewer's time. There are some very funny scenes in the movie, but this film is more about charm and romance than it is about belly laughs. This is a very fine comedy. Among the many fine performances in the film are those mentioned above, plus Tony Hale of “RV” who plays Harold's best friend, Dave. It rates a B.
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